A Cleaner Subscription Setup With youtube-dl

I like to have my browser open as little as possible at this point. Usually, this means a lot of using youtube-dl (which is God’s gift to humanity, accept no other download site or utility) to grab hundreds of videos in crystal-clear 360p and watching them in Windows Media Player (which I swear works better than watching them on YouTube).

My subscriptions were a bit of a weird story though, as I have some on BitChute and most on YouTube. This usually meant opening a ton of tabs across two different sites. Using an RSS reader helps a bit (and it means you don’t miss YouTube not sending stuff to your sub box), but you still end up with a mess of tabs. For watching the day’s uploads straight through, it’s ridiculously clunky.

Worse yet, both BitChute and YouTube have fucking awful video players, the former sometimes buffering forever for no reason and YouTube stuttering to fuck with the quality for no reason. They just plain run badly in the first place–I’ll have games run 30% slower with YouTube visible on-screen than if I played the same video with VLC. Inexcusable.

Downloading a bunch of videos with youtube-dl and playing them automatically in VLC
Here’s another one of my tech tip posts, lads.

Here’s another one of my life hack posts, a way to grab a ton of videos from any number of hosting sites, download them into a folder, watch them straight through in VLC, and then delete the videos, all with one batch file, no going to any sites needed. I’m on patrician Windows, but if you’re a Linux person, you can substitute your setup for mine.

youtube-dl -o "C:\Users\mariteaux\Desktop\temp\%%(title)s.%%(ext)s" -f "bestvideo[height<=480]+bestaudio/best" -a dl-list.txt
"C:\Program Files\VideoLAN\VLC\vlc.exe" --playlist-autostart C:\Users\mariteaux\Desktop\temp\
rmdir /Q/S C:\Users\mariteaux\Desktop\temp\

Few notes about my setup:

  1. Originally, I wanted to use pipes, but it seems like VLC can’t take multiple videos from stdin, only the first one in the download list, so I still have to download them.
  2. I download SD quality or lower videos for speed and for size reasons. I don’t really care if what I’m watching is in HD, I mostly prefer a smaller VLC window. Choose another format if you want a bigger video.
  3. YouTube splits most video formats from the audio, so this grabs the best format around 480p and muxes it with the best audio format (and thus requires ffmpeg in the same folder). Otherwise, it just grabs the “best” format, which is what every other platform seems to need to download.
  4. dl-list.txt is just a list of URLs. My RSS reader lets me copy out the video links as they come in, and then I just paste them into that file.
  5. If you want to get an RSS feed for a channel, it’s https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?channel_id= and then the channel ID, which is at the end of the URL for each channel. My channel‘s feed is at https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?channel_id=UCAomMseaT7x2FiuGwH-My7w. (I’m told you can just paste the channel link into RSS readers and that usually works too.)
  6. YouTube used to have a really nice “export subscriptions to a file” function, but the Subscription Manager seems to have disappeared. They like removing functionality for no real reason.
  7. --playlist-autostart then sets VLC to play all the videos in the folder you specify in alphabetical order.
  8. Once you close VLC, the batch file deletes all the videos, cleaning up after itself. If you want to keep them, obviously don’t run that last line.

One less thing to rely on YouTube for. It’s sad, having been on this site since I was a spergling and now having the distaste for it that I do, but such is the way of the internet. At least I don’t have to put up with their shitty inline video player anymore.

3 Responses to “A Cleaner Subscription Setup With youtube-dl”

  1. dotcomboom Says:

    This is a clever method. It’s really sucky they removed the Subscription Manager, that made it really easy to pack everything up. I have a super old OPML of my subscriptions from like 2017. I’d guess that now I’d have to rely on third party tools (seems like a thing a userscript might be out there for already) or do the dirty work myself.

  2. mariteaux Says:

    Yeah, I used an OPML file when I set up QuiteRSS, and I guess I was lucky to do it when I did, because a couple months later and the feature is just outright gone. Now you get a page where you can just unsubscribe from everyone, one at a time, which is infinitely more functional of course. Gotta love YouTube~

  3. devon Says:

    Youtube gets even more unsuable with everyday, but removing functions in current day is innovation I guess.

    Good idea, really. Already using RSS reader and it’s way convenient than checking subscription on site. Though I don’t really watch youtube content, but I think it will be used when I’ll finally find some interesting channels to suscribe.

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